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AskTP – Monthly

September 29, 2014

Bye bye September. That went fast. But I’m finally New York legal. Got the tags, got the new spiff drivers license, and got the official inspection. I’m judging pizza with AOA, I’m attending board meetings, I’m lunching with the Chefs’ Consortium, and I’m reconnecting with old friends.

It kinda sorta feels like I never left.

But through all the changes, the FLB keeps on ticking. Posts keep being written. Amazingly, people keep coming back to read them. And every now and again folks will ask a question. A long time ago, I committed to answering every question asked in the comments section, just so long as proper punctuation was used.

Today, we’ve got yet another installment of Ask the Profussor where I finally give each question its due. The answers may not be right, they certainly are not timely, and they might not even be helpful. But answers they are. Hopefully I won’t let a whole month slip by again before tackling the next batch. Now without any further ado, onto the questions.

jenh718 defends the act of stockpiling butter:
@Dan re: @irisira’s comment- what’s wrong with stockpiling butter? It’s fine in the freezer for at least a couple of months. And while the CT might have delicious butter, it’s really not practical for anything other that small special occasion as it’s crazy $$$.

That’s true. The problem is that I don’t want to open the new fancy butter while I’m still eating through the last fancy butter. I’m like a butter hoarder. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, it’s just that I can’t comment on the new butter that I bought yet haven’t tried. For the record, the butters I get at the Cheese Traveler are indeed for special occasions. Fortunately for me, those special occasions come every Friday night. It’s one of my favorite parts of Judaism.

boya3706 must have moved to Albany from someplace even colder:
I did have a question though regarding iced coffee. I can’t seem to figure out between all the local coffee shops (including Stewarts) how it was invented to be prepared and consumed. Stewarts leaves more room in the cup to fill with ice to be desired and I’ve seen them pour more milk in there on top of it than I want to consume in a week. Any chance we could get a run down of iced coffee origins, preparation and original intent of serving? It would be appreciated. I’ve never experienced iced coffee until I moved here. Seems to be a New England thing.

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever try to chase down the origins of iced coffee, but maybe if you nag me next spring I might get inspired. That said, it’s not uncommon for iced coffee to be nasty vile stuff. Bad things happen when you brew coffee and let it sit around. It’s no wonder that so many people take it with massive amounts of cream and sugar. Truly great iced coffee needs no adulteration. That said, the New Orleans iced coffee at the Lucas Confectionery is sweetened and creamed, and it’s extraordinary.

Please note, iced coffee is definitely not just a New England thing. It’s enjoyed around the country and around the world. The Japanese in particular are doing great things with it. No joke.

irisira wants to celebrate the American worker:
What better way to celebrate the tradition of the American worker (and the rights he fought for in the workplace) than with American craft beer?

Not to be a downer, but I’m not so sure the American worker can afford American craft beer these days. Honestly, I don’t know what the solution is to these giant problems that are facing society. But the American workers who toiled in the coal mines and gave us the power to build our nation didn’t end up that well. American workers and American soldiers usually seem to be the ones left holding the bag.

Lorres and I may have different ideas of what it means to be working:
I mean, who wants to be working around all that good food? (Sorry – I’m sure you’ll find plenty of people who will correspond beautifully.)

Covering the Saratoga Wine & Food Festival is hardly work. Actually, I’d rather be working it than attending it as a civilian. For starters, when covering the event for work I am duty bound to sample every morsel of food that I can squeeze through my lips. If I weren’t working, I might look at such behavior as gluttonous and be appalled by my lack of restraint.

Pam C. says she doesn’t like change, yet she’s the one who moved to Florida:
I live in Florida now, and came up to Troy to visit family in late July. One of the places I had to go was to the Ale House for wings. I ordered them medium and crispy like I have for 30 years or so…but the wings I got were too hot for me to eat. I gave them to my brother and he ate them, but agreed they were “hotter than usual”. Did they change their sauce? I was so disappointed! I guess next time I’ll have to go to the Ruck.

I swear I noticed a change in the Ale House’s sauce from when I first tried their wings in 2007, but Albany Jane thinks I’m crazy. I’m with you though, but I have no particular insight beyond personal observation.

Burnt My Fingers points out that I may not have made myself entirely clear:
And what exactly your problem with “fresh ham”? Did you actually taste the meat in the deli sandwich and find it slimy, or are you just objecting out of fussiness? Fresh ham is a perfectly legitimate descriptor for the pork leg, as you admit elsewhere in your rant.

Sorry, I’ll try this again. I love a good fresh ham. It’s a great cut of meat for roasting. My objection is simply to people referring to a recently opened package of smoked and cured deli ham as “fresh ham”. Because it’s not. As you and I agree, fresh ham is a delicious, uncured, unsmoked pig’s leg. Deli ham has been cured. That means it has been aged. So, there’s nothing fresh about it beyond the fact that its not rotten.

Hopefully that’s clearer. If not, the next step may be drawing some kind of pictogram.

boya3706 has a different burden when it comes to cooking at home:
The expectation that dinner time happens at 5-6 pm, something not covered in this study in the portion I read, I think it creates that time pressure. When did it become common courtesy or practice that dinner is at a specific time instead of when it’s ready?

I’ve had plenty of meals with Raf that didn’t start until 11 pm or later because the food wasn’t ready. It was never a big deal because we were all in our 20s and there were no hungry kids about. Plus there was always plenty of wine, cheese, and good company. I think when people get older, they get a good bit less flexible and more set in their ways. Cooking for a dinner party is really a completely separate topic. I’ll make sure to add it to my ongoing list of posts to write in the future.

Burnt My Fingers isn’t going to like either of these answers:
Where do you find cheap pork belly? And don’t tell me the Asian Supermarket. In my neck of the woods it’s hard to find, and when you do its price is comparable to pork chops.
Also, maybe it’s obvious, but if folks want less fat it’s easy enough to slice and pre-cook those sausages and drain before adding to the rest of the food.

I remember being pleased with the price of the pork belly at Adventure in Food Trading. Cheap may be the wrong word. It’s a good value for the cut given the quality of the meat and the quality of the fat. That said, it’s a skin off belly. I recently heard from a little birdie that Glen at Rolf’s can get you a pretty decent skin on pork belly. It’s not going to be coming from the happiest pigs, but Glen isn’t going to tolerate shitty meat. He takes his craft seriously.

5busyrussells is apparently not the only one who didn’t get the memo:
I no longer drink DD coffee EVER. McDonalds in a pinch is fine and isn’t it Newmans coffee?

It turns out that McDonald’s walked away from Newman’s Own coffee a while ago, even though they still use the brand’s salad dressings.

Debra asks what should be an easy question:
Doesn’t everyone love free?

Apparently not. I heard of a man who didn’t want to take McDonald’s free coffee, so instead he’s driving through and paying for a medium. That’s one principled fellow. He’s not even taking advantage of the large being the same price as the medium. But hey, if he’s only comfortable paying the most possible for everything, he’s effectively subsidizing those value seekers among us. When they say, “It takes all kinds,” they really mean it.

stanford steph better not whine about this, as there is a strict no whining rule:
Am I allowed to enter since I’m not in NY?

We’ll put you in the drawing pool. You missed the top 10 for the vouchers, and the big prize is mostly tchotchkes anyway. Should Random.org pick your entry, I’ll send your deets to McDonald’s for fulfillment. If they balk, they balk. But I can’t see why they would.

caravan70 probably didn’t want to get into a geek fest about specialty roasters:
McDonald’s actually has surprisingly good coffee… again, not quite the same as Blue Bottle or Intelligentsia, but what is?

PT’s Coffee Roasting is pretty darn good. Cartel Coffee Lab does great work. Brew in Albany sells Tandem, and I do really want to give them a try. Some say Intelligentsia and Stumptown have now gotten far too big, and are no longer as good as their reputation. But that’s the mating cry of the early adopter.

julieovaltrades like Debra asks something quite innocent:
I will also tell my dunkin coffee drinking friends about this deal, why not?

Well, they may not like you butting into their morning coffee rituals. People really like the things that they like, and the older they get, the more resistant to change they become. If someone has been drinking Dunkin’ Donuts coffee for many many years, it’s unlikely that it tastes good or bad to them at all. It has simply become coffee. Coffee is now defined by whether it’s from Dunkin’ or not.

The unfortunate result of that is that regardless of what coffee you give this person the result will be the same. The Dunkin’ drinker’s face will twist in disgust and exclaim, “No, I don’t like it.” Not because it’s old, or burnt, or acidic, but because it simply tastes different. And at a certain point, anything different is bad.

Michelle ask an existential question on salad:
My girls actually love salad. Or in truth, they love raw veggies cut into small pieces. They won’t eat lettuce of any sort, so does that negate the idea of salad?

Right. So your girls don’t actually love salad. Despite the semantics of things like egg salad, tuna salad, or lobster salad, salad is fundamentally shorthand for green salad. If the kids don’t eat lettuce, they don’t eat salad.

This whole salad things gets people confused all the time. It confounds me when people think there should be lettuce in Greek salad. There’s no lettuce in carrot salad. There’s no lettuce in potato salad. There’s no lettuce in Greek salad either. Although the season for that is totally over. Dammit. Wish I had made one when I had the chance. Next year.

-R went deep on the subject of ranch dressing:
If there’s no point of reference or paradigm for actual “ranch” then food scientists can create anything they wish and hang an appropriate label on it. But it’s all rather insidious, isn’t it? By producing a product purposely in tune with the dynamics of the American palate (more fat, more salt, sweeter) the companies who produce this dross can constantly fine-tune the levels of sweet, salt, fat, umami, etc in their products in a slowly evolving manner that reflects the current flavor desires of the public. Not to be too conspiratorial, but would a bottle of ranch produced by, say, Hidden Valley 20 years ago taste the same as one rolling off the line today (providing for lack of spoilage, freshness, etc)? I would speculate that it would not.

Yes, it is rather insidious. Thanks to all this commentary, I do think I’ve got a better handle on the ranch dressing phenomenon. That said, having worked with the Clorox corporation for a few years, I’m inclined to think that they are less responsive to changes in formulation than one might speculate. Perhaps over 20 years there were a few changes in the recipe, still I can all but guarantee they weren’t constantly fine tuning anything.

recipestories is jumping the gun about how to get kids to eat their vegetables:
I usually send one veggie on their lunch boxes and often comes back. They say they did not have time to eat at school… that’s another topic, right?!

Yes, but it won’t cover school lunches. For us it’s about laying down expectations and priorities. The kids know how strongly we feel about wasting food. As such, they know I expect them to eat the fresh foods first, and save the ones with longer shelf lives for the end. So usually, the vegetables get eaten. When there is no time to finish their lunch, it’s usually a few chips that return (which they can then finish as a part of afternoon snack).

Officially, I’m the meanest dad on the block.

Andrew has a suggestion for another FLB event:
What about a Tour de Bagel?

Tours are really dedicated to those foods that do not travel at all or would decline demonstratively in transit. Bagels travel great. And as such a blind bagel tasting would make a ton of sense. We did this a million years ago with cupcakes. Now that there are more bagel shops, I think we could pull something like this off. The additional upside about doing this as a tasting, is that the contest is completely blind. No points for cute store fronts or fanciful names. It all just comes down to the bagel, and you can only judge the bagel in front of you.

MB has more thoughts on this bagel thing:
If there’s a bagel tour, please include Bread & Honey on Madison (Honest Weight has their Everything bagel, but not the rest of the options. Is that flavor considered the quintessential bagel?) And what happened to Albany Bagel Co – is it still at the farmers market?

The Everything bagel is a very telling bagel. For example, does the shop use salt? Salt is a must. Caraway? Caraway can be divisive. How generous are they with the topping? How evenly is the bagel coated? How good is the distribution of components? Salt is important, but too much salt can kill it. As can burnt garlic. It’s a tricky beast.

As far as Albany Bagel Co goes, your guess is as good as mine. I haven’t been to The Crossings farmers market, although I’ve really wanted to check it out. The fact there are so many great food events and destinations these days is truly remarkable. Everyone should have such problems.

caravan70 finally read the FLB post on egg creams:
One thing that has always puzzled me about those who believe that only U-Bet that’s kosher for Passover will suffice is this: Do they think their favorite places only buy chocolate syrup during that limited period of time? Seems a little unrealistic.

I think they hope their favorite places stockpile syrup during that time of year. I know if I were running a soda shop, I totally would. At least Fox’s U-Bet still uses corn syrup instead of that nasty HFCS stuff. I wish I could say the same thing for those classic coffee syrups of Rhode Island.

Burnt My Fingers is pulling all the short straws today:
Why is this the last Tournament of Pizza? Why don’t you take it over next year?

AOA is done with it. They want to go out with a bang, and kill it before it drags on indefinitely. They say they will move on to other similar features, and I’ve been pitching my own ideas to the editors. The TOP is an AOA thing, I do the tours. Maybe I’ll be inspired to take on a Tour de Slice down the road, but as it stands now I’m already behind. The summer tour never materialized and Tour de Donut planning hasn’t even begun. Egads!

llcwine is clearly looking at a Jewish calendar but misunderstanding one key thing:
Daniel….eating pizza the day before Yom Kippur starts? You better drink a ton of water!!!!

I see how she came to that conclusion. The calendar says that Yom Kippur starts on Friday. The AOA TOP semi finals are Thursday night. However, Yom Kippur doesn’t begin until sundown on Friday with the Kol Nidre service. The big fast is actually on Saturday, so I think I’ll be okay. Really, I should be more than okay, given that I expect to consume a week’s worth of calories in that one night.

JSM sent a Hail Mary over email last night:
Could you give this a last minute shout tomorrow?

Why the heck not. Check out Soul Cafe Albany which is having what sounds like a kickass event tonight. Details below (and some further background has been included in the link of the day).

– – –

What: Pizza Night at Soul Café Albany
When: Monday, September 29, 6-8 PM
Where: Westminster Presbyterian Church (parking lot access at 85 Chestnut Street)
How Much: $3 suggested donation

Pizza! Why read any further?

The Soul Café Albany community meal is at it again with its $3 volunteer-run dinner (no one will be turned away). The Honest Weight Food Co-op and other generous area businesses donate culled produce for the cooks to prepare. Vegan and vegetarian options will be available.

All are welcome! We are looking forward to working together to break bread in the community.

+ For more information, contact soulcafealbany@gmail.com.
+ More information can also be found on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/soulcafealbanyny

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Randy K permalink
    September 29, 2014 10:37 am

    if you do a bagel tasting, you must include Troy’s Psychedelicatessan :)

    oh- and invite me, please!

  2. October 3, 2014 12:46 pm

    Sheesh, once again you demonstrate your salad prejudice. @Michelle’s children are most certainly eating salads. Salads are not defined (commonly or otherwise) as a bowl of greens. That’s your definition. A salad is generally “a cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.” So yes, it is appropriate for Michelle to call the mixture of chopped, raw vegetables she prepares for her children a salad.

    And once again, I feel the need to needle you about it. ;)

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